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Dunford Praises Service Members for Handling of Guantanamo Mission

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL STATION, Cuba, March 10, 2016 — After a visit here this week, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said he is proud of the way the men and women of Joint Task Force Guantanamo are carrying out their detainee operations mission.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited the facilities at the base, observed operations and spoke to many men and women involved in the mission.

After meeting the service members working at the Joint Task Force, the chairman said, he walked away believing the young men and women reflect the values of America. “Of all the discussion of Gitmo, … when it come to American values demonstrated on a day-to-day basis, we don’t have to hide what’s going on at Gitmo from anybody,” he said.

He remarked on the behavior of the U.S. service members and the attentiveness they display in treating the detainees with respect. He also noted that the operations are under the scrutiny of the international community.  And “the Red Cross literally lives at Guantanamo Bay,” he added.

“I’m proud of the young men and women that are doing what they are doing every day and the manner in which that facility is operating every day,” he said.

Part of U.S. Southern Command Trip

The visit is part of the chairman’s week-long visit to U.S. Southern Command. He stopped here for a first-hand look at what one Southcom briefer called “our one no-fail mission.”

“From my own previous experience being responsible for detention facilities both in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am very well aware of the discipline that is required every day to do the right thing, and how quickly you can become complacent, given the repetitive nature of the tasks in places like that,” Dunford said.

In speaking with the troops, the general used an analogy of crystal balls and rubber balls. If you drop a rubber ball, he said, it will still work, and that represents a tactical situation.

“Crystal balls -- you drop one of those, it breaks. It’s strategic,” he said. “Gitmo is strategic. Their behavior every day, while it appears on the surface … to be tactical, has strategic implications.”

The joint task force consists of 2,000 service members from all services and components. They are responsible for guarding 91 detainees who are housed in two camps at the base. Camp 5 is a state-of-the-art facility opened in April 2004. The camp is a maximum security facility for “noncompliant” detainees, joint task force officials said. Next to it is Camp 6, which opened in October 2006. It is a minimum security facility where “compliant” detainees live communally.

Dunford visited both camps during his stop. He viewed procedures and processes in the camps and spoke to a range of service members conducting the mission. These folks ranged from guards to medics to legal specialists to dental technicians to translators to cultural experts and more. They also run the gamut of services and components.

Impressive Command Climate

The chairman said he was impressed by the command climate and that all service members showed a level of commitment and sense of pride in accomplishing the mission. “The leadership was engaged with the soldiers every day,” he said.

Dunford would not comment on plans to close the facility, saying that is a decision left to civilian leaders. He did say any plan must consider three things. First, “people who need to be detained, kept off the battlefield, who are a risk to the American people and our allies, need to be detained properly,” he said.

The second, he said, is that any plan has to have a plan to prosecute anyone who needs to be prosecuted. The third consideration, he said, is that if they need to be incarcerated, there needs to be a place to properly incarcerate them.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)